Essential oils that will send you straight to sleep

Can't sleep? Read our essential guide to find out why, and how the right blend of essential oils could help you drift off tonight

Essential Oils for Sleep - flowers on blue background

by Emily Farquhar |

It’s a Monday night after a big weekend. I’m in bed and I can’t sleep to save my life. I’ve tried all the music tracks; rain drops, random voices and the ocean. I’ve done my breathing and meditation. And, sleeping pills are simply not an option. Sound familiar?

I know not to drink caffeine before bed, and electronics in the bedroom are a big no no. I light a bedside candle, and the scent gets me thinking. How about essential oils? Do they work? How do they work? Who should we trust? Below I share some insight into which single origin and blended oils have helped me slow down and better my sleep.

From Tisserand Aromatherapy’s Bergamot essential oil to This Works’s naturally blended spray, these sleep aid products are certainly worth a try.

Read more: The best earplugs for sleeping

Which essential oils help sleep?

Before I reveal your next match made in heaven, it is important to note that the best oils fall under two groups: essential oils for sleep and congestion that alleviate snoring and clear the airways, and essential oils for sleep apnea that calm the mind and reduce anxiety.

The use of essential oils isn’t just a recent social media craze. Our ancestors have been using these as alternative medicinal products for decades. Research shows aromatherapy using essential oils and harnessing our sense of smell can be used to cure many things, but for the purpose of sleep, it has been proven to ease mild sleep problems, improve our quality of sleep and provide relief.

How? Scientists believe that by absorbing certain essential oils through the skin or inhaling the molecules activates the chemicals in our brain that control sleep. Research also shows that essential oils can relieve stress and act as a complementary therapy to people who are anxious. This is because when our mind is going a million miles a minute, it is no wonder that we have trouble falling asleep.

Similar to finding your signature scent, choosing the right essential oil that sends you straight to sleep may include some trial and error. And, if you’re anything like me - indecisive and overwhelmed with too much choice - these are the main ingredients to look out for…

Lavender – Light floral; relaxes you by slowing down the nervous system and heart rate, increasing slow-wave sleep and leaving you to feel more energised the next morning

Chamomile – Soft and sweet; common herbal medicine for depression, reducing sadness, stress and anxiousness

Sweet Marjoram – Spicy mint; its calming qualities relax the brain and ease the body to sleep

Eucalyptus – Fresh and citrusy; its natural decongesting qualities helps to unblock sinuses and ease breathing, reducing restlessness and making you snore less

Ylang-Ylang – Tropical and rich floral; its soothing qualities relieves stress and anxiousness

Frankincense – Sweet and woody; its precious and aromatherapeutic qualities relieves stress and promotes relaxation

Neroli – Floral and clean; its hypnotic and soothing qualities relax the mind and lower the blood pressure, reducing feelings of grief, agitation and despair

Bergamot – Fruity and sweet; its calming and purifying qualities lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, however, can be photosensitive so avoid applying it if you plan to go outside

Lemon – Fruity and clean; calms the mind and lowers the heart rate, boosting your serotonin levels and leaving you to feel happy the next morning

Clary Sage – Herbaceous and leathery; its natural sedative and antidepressant qualities reduces stress and levels of hormone cortisol

Geranium – Rose with a lemon twist; its sedative qualities can reduce stress and help you to stay asleep

Jasmine – Sensual and rich; improves the quality of sleep by reducing anxiousness, leaving you to feel more refreshed the next morning

Valerian – Sweet rose; known for the breakdown of the GABA neurotransmitter, its sleep-inducing qualities lowers anxiousness and encourages deep sleep

Sandalwood – Woody and earthy; its sedative qualities reduce wakefulness and relieves stress and anxiousness

Cedarwood – Sweet and earthy; its sedative qualities relieve tension, reduces muscle pain, leaving you to feel more uplifted the next morning

Peppermint – Intense menthol; its anti-inflammatory qualities help to clear the airways, making you snore less and feel less stressed

Vanilla – Cosy and nostalgic; calms the mind, eases breathing and reduces the startle reflex

Not only do these ingredients smell nice, but they all play a special part in enhancing your sleeping experience. Not to mention, highly recommended for bedtime routines in training the mind to associate a scent with the behaviour of falling asleep.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections. Find out why you can trust us here

Which essential oils go well together?

Although it is good to own single origin essential oils and they certainly come with their benefits, research has shown that blended oils could be more effective in improving sleep. Essential oils are also considered adaptogens which means that depending on the oil blend, they adapt differently to every person and its effect.

Here are some of our favourite essential oil blend products:

The use of essential oil diffusers is another popular option for troubled sleepers in need of some therapeutic sleeping aid. Read this article for more information on the best aromatherapy diffusers.


How to use essential oils for sleep

There are many questions surrounding how to use essential oils before bedtime, such as; ‘where to apply essential oils for sleep’ and ‘are essential oils bad for skin’? The safest plan of action would be to carefully read the instructions on the given product before using it, as every product above has a recommended usage amount depending on its composition.

If it is a certified aromatherapy brand or a product which is either ‘100% pure’ or has a ‘Premium Therapeutic Grade’ label, meaning it is toxin free, then there will always be a set of instructions. Avoid products that are called ‘perfume oil’ or ‘fragrance oil’ as these often contain synthetic ingredients and aren’t as effective.

Generally, the usual procedure whether pure or blended would require either a diffuser, a burner or a complementary base oil. Before applying any essential oil topically (be it on your pressure points or during a massage), be sure to dilute your chosen essential oil with a carrier (base) oil. Otherwise applying undiluted essential oils could irritate the skin.

Common carrier oils include jojoba, coconut, grapeseed and olive oils. For every one drop of essential oil, you should add 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil. Topical application is recommended though as then the oils will permeate your skin, meaning you will not only be able to smell them, but they will enter your bloodstream quicker. If, however you are prone to sensitive skin or allergies, avoid applying topically and diffuse the essential oil. Another option is to add two or three drops of these oils to a diffuser which will slowly ignite your therapeutic bedtime bubble. If you don’t want your diffuser left flowing, you can apply a few drops to your pillowcase.

Are essential oils safe?

Short answer yes, if you take the recommended precautions. Longer answer, if you haven’t used essential oils before, I would recommend consulting with your doctor first. There are many factors, such as; medications you’re taking or sensitive skin that may not be a suitable match. Once getting the thumbs up, choose brands and products like the ones listed above that are credible. Other simple tips would be to do small patch tests (under the arm) before using these essential oils across large areas of the body or dilute them. If all OK after 24 hours, then you’re good to go!

What to read next:

The best sleep sprays and mists to help you drift off

The benefits of using rose oil in your beauty routine

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Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us